Last Updated: March 31, 2021
Give Your Brain a Workout
Keeping your brain in shape has major lifelong benefits like enhancing your memory, building new synapses, and possibly helping delay the onset of illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease. Even better news is that adding brain exercise to your fitness routine can be pretty simple. By changing up a few of your day-to-day activities and incorporating a variety of mental ability boosters, you can keep your brain sharp and in shape for the long haul. Aim for brain exercises that include novelty and challenges.
Hands down, the most recommended brain exercise is physical activity. Moving your body gets blood and oxygen flowing to your brain. This strengthens the synapses that connect neurons and keeps your brain agile for your entire life. Walking is a low-impact cardio routine nearly anyone can do at any pace. Just 30 minutes a day, 3 to 5 days a week, will keep your mind energized and help reduce stress and anxiety. Bring a buddy along and get the added bonus of brain stimulating conversation and human connection.
Here’s an easy way to train your memory—listen more, with your ears and your mind. Paying attention to details and trying to recall them later is an excellent form of memory training you can do all day long. Try this on your walk: Notice the world around you. What sounds do you hear? What do you smell? How does your body feel walking up or down a hill? What colors are your neighbors’ houses and flowers? Really pay attention to all of the details. Then, later in the day try to reconstruct the walk in your mind or better yet, tell a friend about it.
3. Building Speed
You brain doesn’t have to slow down as you get older. You can speed train it for faster mental and physical reactions. Timed games like Boggle utilize your adaptive and working memory to keep you thinking on your feet. Physical activities like tennis, ping pong, or a good old-fashioned game of catch will improve your eye-hand coordination and reaction time, as well as challenge your brain to remember specific skills and techniques.
4. Reading and Writing
Sudoku and crossword puzzles are certainly fun, but aren’t necessarily the best brain exercise. After a while you get the hang of how they work and your mind is less challenged. Reading and writing, on the other hand, engage your brain in new ways because you are learning or creating new information. Stories can be very exciting for your brain, especially ones with twist and turns. Look for memoirs, nonfiction, murder mysteries, or whatever keeps your mind surprised and interested. Or, write your own story by keeping a journal!
5. Healthy Eating
Eating nutritious food is great for your brain. This may not be news to you, but it’s a good reminder that healthy eating benefits our entire body. Some studies have shown that green, leafy vegetables may help reduce mental decline. Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other seafood are also thought to benefit the brain. But the bottom line is a smart diet of vegetables, fish, healthy fats and limited carbohydrates will keep your mind as healthy as the rest of your body.
6. Learning New Things
Learning new skills fits both the novel and challenging categories of brain exercises. Learning a foreign language or how to play a musical instrument can really put your gray matter to task. Or, keep it simple by memorizing the words to a song or poem. Meeting new people presents an opportunity to learn names. Every time you meet someone new, ask their name and repeat it back to them. Increase the challenge by finding out an interesting fact about them and try to connect that to their name. Then see if you can remember both pieces of information next time you see them.
Finally, we get to the most fun factor for keeping your brain properly exercised—social interaction. Studies show people who engage in intellectually stimulating social activities have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Think about joining a book club, band, or volunteer group. Even chitchatting with friends and family helps keep your synapses firing and your mind learning. Building relationships boosts your mood and mental outlook. Stay positive and exercise your brain with other people who enjoy challenging their mind.
About The Author
Elizabeth Beasley Elizabeth has been writing for Health grades since 2014 and specializes in articles about alternative and complementary therapies like meditation, yoga, energy work and aromatherapy. She also performs improv comedy and is a firm believer that laughter really is the best medicine.
Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: What Do We Know? National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/preventing-alzheimers-disease/search-alzheimers-preven...
Growing Research Finds Physical and Mental “Workout Can Keep You Sharp in Later Life, Report Experts at American Geriatrics Society Conference. American Geriatrics Society. http://www.americangeriatrics.org/health_care_professionals/research_conferences/past_ags_research_c...
Healthy Brain Initiative. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/aging/healthybrain/index.htm
Staying Sharp: Successful Aging and Your Brain. The DANA Foundation. http://www.dana.org/uploadedFiles/The_Dana_Alliances/Staying_Sharp/Successful%20Aging%20and%20Your%2...
Brain Health. Alzheimer’s Association. http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_brain_health_maintain_your_brain.asp
How You Can Make Your Brain Smarter Every Day. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/08/06/how-you-can-make-your-brain-smarter-every-day/
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 31
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.